What do the Carolina Panthers have at tight end in 2021?

Dean Jones
(Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports) Dan Arnold
(Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports) Dan Arnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas – Carolina Panthers TE

The situation regarding Ian Thomas is a real head-scratcher where the Carolina Panthers are concerned. They were more than willing to give the former fourth-round selection a real shot at becoming the successor to Greg Olsen and placed a lot of faith in him to deliver the goods, but his lack of involvement in the passing game was a clear indicator that something was amiss.

Thomas was targeted just 31 times during the 2020 season, bringing in 20 receptions for 145 receiving yards and one touchdown. This was a far cry from what everyone expected in a pivotal third season for the player and considering the reinforcements Carolina acquired this offseason, the Indiana product faces a real fight for playing time next time around.

Whether Thomas became a little complacent or not is up for debate.

But this was his big opportunity to prove himself as a starting-caliber tight end that he simply did not make the most of.

What comes next for Thomas is unclear.

The Panthers can release him at a cap saving of $2 million before competitive action gets underway in 2021, with the prospect of another team giving up draft capital in a possible trade now almost non-existent.

Thomas is still around, at least for now. But how he responds in the coming weeks is going to ultimately determine his future.